PANAMA CITY, FL-- There are several strains of Hepatitis that can affect anyone, but the Centers for Disease control says one particular group, more than any other, is testing positive for the most serious form. The Bay County Health Department is doing its part to make locals aware and get tested.
"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. It refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver.
There are lots of types, but the most common are hepatitis a, hepatitis b, and hepatitis c. An estimated 3.2 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis-C, but most don't know they are infected.
Eric Moncada is a health educator for hepatitis and HIV with the Bay County Health Department.
He said hepatitis is a global epidemic so the're trying to take care of it at the root. "There are vaccines and treatments for hepatitis a and b. But for c it's a little more complex."
Hepatitis-C is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants. "It is liver failure. Slowly. If you don't take care of yourself or the issue then cirrhosis develops and that's hard to let blood flow into organs needed," said Moncada.
Bay County Health Department Clinic Nursing Supervisor Tracy Adams says hepatitis c does require treatment at some point in your life. Usually not immediate, depending on how long you've had the virus. Hepatitis is blood bourne.
It's contracted primarily through unprotected sex, mother to unborn child, needle sharing, tattoos and poor hygiene. "We're seeing a lot of cases now with baby boomers and those are people born from 1945 to 1965, and we're seeing a really large outbreak in that age group," says Moncada.
Bay County has a high incidence of hepatitis c. "This is a high population area for baby boomers, for injection users, so we're trying to gather everybody and let the neighborhood know we're doing testing.
Hopefully we can stop this epidemic in this town," said Moncada.
Bay County Health Department officials say locals shouldn't wait to get tested. You can call any time to make an appointment. Most times the hepatitis testing is free of charge for a, b, and c," said Adams. For those who test positive for hepatitis c, is now treatable.
It's a lengthy and sometimes painful process, but the alternative is usually fatal.